A federal appellate court has vacated a 2016 verdict that awarded $151 million to five people harmed by DePuy hip implants. The appeals court said the trial court should not have allowed prejudicial evidence of prior bad acts by the parent company.
The appeal deals a blow to the plaintiffs. Although they plan to retry the case, more time will pass before they can see justice done. Meanwhile, thousands of other lawsuits over the artificial hip are still pending.
Medical manufacturer successfully appealed big verdict
The original lawsuit alleged defects in the DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement system. The metal-on-metal artificial hip joint has been linked to mechanical failure and associated health problems.
Five plaintiffs sued Johnson & Johnson, the New Jersey-based manufacturer. At trial, the civil jury awarded the victims $502 million, including punitive damages. That award was later reduced by a federal judge to $151 million.
In its appeal, J&J alleged that the trial judge improperly allowed evidence that was highly prejudicial. Namely, the jury heard about a 2011 government investigation which concluded that J&J bribed doctors and officials in foreign markets.
A three-member panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that incurable errors by the trial court tainted that jury. The verdict was tossed out, but the court said that plaintiffs can re-file their lawsuit, which they plan to do. If they do not reach a settlement with J&J, they might have to wait another year or more for another trial.
Another possibility is joining a consolidated group or class action. Juries in Texas have awarded several verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for more than billion dollars, and there are 10,000 more lawsuits in the pipeline.
What are so many people suing?
The DePuy Pinnacle is among several brands of metal-on-metal hip implants that have generated defective product lawsuits. Thousands of patients experienced chronic pain, swelling, creaking in the joint and/or a limp after having their hip replaced. Others have experienced bone loss or become ill from microscopic metal particles leaching into surrounding bone tissues. Many have had to endure subsequent operations to remove and replace the Pinnacle implant. Some are no longer candidates for hip surgery as a result of the complications.